Emma Hansen of Salem earns Girl Scouting’s highest honor, the Gold Award
SALEM, NH – Inspired at a young age to make the world a better place, Gold Award Girl Scout Emma Hansen has done just that with her Be the Change project.
Hansen, 18, of Salem, spent the past two and a half years working on a trio of projects to boost civic awareness and education for her community and beyond. She advocated for renovations to Woodbury Middle School, created a virtual event for Girl Scout Brownies to earn their Democracy badge, and wrote a children’s book called “Mom for Mayor.” Her hard work and dedication earned her Girl Scouting’s highest honor for girls in grades 9-12, the Girl Scout Gold Award.
Having attended Woodbury Middle School, Hansen was well aware of the issues of the nearly 100-year-old building, including collapsing ceilings, asbestos exposure, and a heating system that didn’t work well. Complaining wasn’t the answer, advocacy was. At just 16, she created a social media presence and video, posted on town Facebook pages, and organized a phone bank to persuade voters to approve a resolution to fund a new school building.
“We got a lot of positive feedback on the video,” she said. “Parents were concerned about it raising taxes, but they committed to voting for it.”
The $49.6 million renovation project was approved by voters this past spring, and construction has begun.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Hansen had to adjust plans to teach Girl Scout Brownies so they could earn the new Democracy badge in the second part of her project.
“It took a few months to think it through,” she said, then decided to do a virtual event that included U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster and state Rep. Mindy Messner talking to the Girl Scouts.
“They talked about projects that involved kids and changing laws,” she said. “At the time, right after the January 6 attack on the Capitol, girls at that age hear what’s going on and had some really good questions they got honest answers to. They learned how important our democracy is.”
The girls also held a mock election, deciding whether a dog or cat should be president. Prepare now for a dog to lead the country.
Hansen’s book, “Mom for Mayor,” is her proudest accomplishment. “It kind of spanned over the whole project, she said. “I wrote it during the pandemic while I was bored in my room. One of the hardest parts was finding someone to illustrate it.”
Eventually she connected with Sheri Sharkey, who not only did the work, but donated it to Hansen for her project. The book tells the story of a girl named Emmalee, who helps her mother run for mayor, teaching readers what it takes to hold public office and encouraging female empowerment.
“I got inspired to write about the campaign process” she said, when she volunteered for the Pete Buttigieg for President campaign in 2019. She spent about 100 hours canvassing and took leadership positions in the campaign. “After the 2016 election I was upset with the results, and thought, well, we need people to get involved if we want to see change. So I slowly started putting myself out there.”
She started attending Democratic Party meetings, worked at the polls as a greeter and a ballot clerk, and became very invested in politics, campaigning, and working for her community. She even started a civics club at Salem High School.
“I definitely gained a lot of networking skills,” she said, “and built my confidence up, talking to people who were older than me.”
This accomplished young woman has been a Girl Scout for 13 years, from Daisy through Ambassador levels, and is now a lifetime member as an adult. She plans to attend Roger Williams University this fall, majoring in elementary education.
Gold Award Girl Scouts don’t just change the world for the better, they change it for good. The Gold Award is earned by girls in grades 9–12 who demonstrate extraordinary leadership in developing sustainable solutions to local, national, and global challenges. Since 1916, Girl Scouts have answered the call to drive lasting, impactful change. They earn college scholarships, demonstrate high educational and career outcomes, and are active in their communities.
Emma Hansen has answered the call to drive lasting, impactful change, and her Gold Award is a testament to her remarkable dedication to improving her community and the world. The Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable.
About the Girl Scout Gold Award
- Gold Award Girl Scouts on average spend one to two years on their project.
- A Gold Award project must be sustainable after the girl’s involvement ends.
- The average age of Gold Award Girl Scouts is 17.
- Since 1916, more than 1 million girls have earned the Gold Award or its equivalent.
- Gold Award Girl Scouts are entitled to enlist at a higher pay grade when they join the military.
- University research indicates that noting you are a Gold Award Girl Scout on a college application is influential in the admissions decision-making process.
- Sixteen young women from New Hampshire and Vermont earned their Gold Award in the 2020-2021 membership year as part of Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains.
- The Girl Scout Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable!
About Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains: Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is recognized throughout New Hampshire and Vermont as a leading expert on girls. Our Girl Scout Leadership Experience is a one-of-a-kind leadership development program for girls, with proven results. It is based on time-tested methods and research-backed programming that helps girls take the lead—in their own lives and in the world. Through our exciting and challenging programs, Girl Scouts not only participate but also take the lead in a range of activities—from kayaking, archery, and camping, to coding, robotics, financial literacy training, and beyond! Serving girls throughout New Hampshire and Vermont, girls discover the fun, friendship, and power of girls together. Visit www.girlscoutsgwm.org.